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Unscheduled dividends from digital development

The three million-strong Mongolians today are using almost five million cellphones, and one million of these people have regular access to the Internet. Mongolia has 165 cellphones per 100 people and ranks fifth in the world after Hong Kong (240), the United Arab Emirates (204), Montenegro (178), and Saudi Arabia (169) in cellphone use.
Are we really making the most out of these cellphones we use? Is Mongolia getting a digital economy? Our cellphones have become smart, but what about the people?
The World Bank has recently released “World Development Report 2016: Digital Dividends”, which explains how the use of digital technologies benefits socio-economic development.
This report was launched in Ulaanbaatar last week, and Ms. Tenzin Dolma Norbhu, Information and Communications Technology Specialist at the World Bank, presented the report to an audience that included representatives from government and public organizations. The presentation was followed by a discussion of the benefits of digital technology in Mongolia.
The report says that the digital dividends – the broader development benefits of using these technologies – are lagging behind, even though the use of digital technology has spread rapidly around the globe. Although digital technologies have increased economic growth, expanded opportunities, and drastically improved the delivery of services, the total dividends are small and not evenly distributed.
In order to deliver the benefits of the digital revolution to everyone and to every place, the digital divide needs to be closed and Internet access should be universally available. Furthermore, certain “analog complements” to digital technology are required to ensure that countries fully benefit from technological advances.
The report suggests that these analog complements include strengthening regulations that promote business competition, preparing a workforce fit for the new demands of the economy, and ensuring that government institutions are accountable.

MONGOLIA’S DIGITAL DIVIDE

Mongolia’s territory is as big as the territories of France, Germany, and Spain combined. Although not every household in Mongolia is connected to running water, sanitation facilities, or electricity, everyone does have a cellphone, and countryside families watch television using satellite dishes.
However, more than half of the population resides in the capital, and more than half of the city’s population lives in ger districts, most with fewer financial capabilities and without sufficient access to or knowledge of the Internet.
Approximately 10 percent of Mongolia’s 330 soums are still not connected to fiber optic internet cables. There have not been enough assessments on the access and use of the Internet by ger district and countryside residents.
Also, we do not have a study on the demographics of Internet use. As more than half of our population is above the age of 30, we do not have any insight on how many of them are using the Internet, have access, and whether the retired are receiving digital dividends. There is not enough work being done to ensure that they are connected to the Internet and to allow them to receive public services online. The digital dividends are not going to every household in Mongolia.
We do not have any government or non-governmental organizations that are studying the widening digital divide and working to close it.
The digital divide is now more easily observed in differences of residence, age, and gender, in addition to income. While the digital divide becomes wider, those who have more income and education are accessing more opportunities in the digital economy and increasing their productivity.

THE NEED FOR ANALOG COMPLEMENTS

The 2016 World Development Report on digital dividends says, that in order to ensure that every member of society receives digital dividends, there needs to be strong government regulations, a prepared workforce, and capable organizations. These are called analog complements, as they have already been in place since before the digital revolution.
Any country can reach a new level of development in a short amount of time by making the most out of digital technology. The report says that interconnection and competition between businesses, a more skilled workforce thanks to new technology, and more accountable government agencies are needed to make this change take place.
In our case, there needs to be a lot of work done to build the necessary infrastructure to connect all families to the Internet, reduce the cost of Internet access, decrease taxes on digital products, train people of all ages to use smart phones and computers, and to adopt digital means of providing public services.
It is time for Mongolia to take these demands into account and develop a strategy on digital development. This is a much wider concept than just developing information and communication technologies. The important step here is fully reflecting the benefits of digital technologies in socio-economic development as well as human development.
Estonia, a country that has made this change possible, passed a law on electronic signatures, which allowed people to access all public services online. They have organized their elections online for the past 10 years, and have not had any mistakes or controversies.
In contrast, we have been arguing about ballot counting machines for the past four years and are about to hold the next elections. Let us hope that the time will soon come for Mongolians to make the most of our smartphones.

Trans. by B.AMAR

Short URL: http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/?p=18744

Posted by on Mar 7 2016. Filed under Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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